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Helping your child succeed: How to choose books for reading aloud to your child

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — One of the most beneficial things that parents can do for their children’s reading ability is to read aloud to them on a daily basis.

Numerous educational studies have shown that reading aloud to children every day helps them develop a positive attitude toward reading, increases their vocabulary, expands their knowledge base, stimulates the imagination, builds listening skills, and improves their critical thinking and problem solving skills. In order for children to get the maximum benefit and enjoyment from hearing books read aloud, parents should carefully select books that are appropriate for the age and interests of their children.

Choosing the right books

Below are some suggestions for choosing books for reading aloud:

• Choose a storybook that you will enjoy reading aloud. If you do not like a particular book, do not read it to your child. Your lack of enthusiasm will show. Children will quickly lose interest in a book if you are not enjoying it.

• Always read the books to yourself before reading them aloud to your child. That way, you will be able to find out the correct pronunciation of any unusual or unfamiliar words before reading them aloud, will know what is going to happen in the story and will be prepared for any discussions with your child that may arise from hearing the events in the story.

• Select stories that have an interesting plot, frequent dialogue and are appropriate for your child’s age. For young children, books with rhyme, rhythm and repetition are excellent choices. As you find authors and illustrators you like, look for more of their books.

• Match the length of the story with your child’s attention span. Begin with short selections and increase the story length gradually. In the beginning, try using two or three short books in place of a longer story.

• Choose books that are slightly above your child’s reading level but at the child’s interest level. That way you can introduce more complex vocabulary and language that your children would not normally encounter in their everyday readings at school. Keep in mind that the level of children’s listening comprehension is two years above their reading levels.

• Vary the subject matter and the type of your reading selections. In addition to fiction, you might also read poetry, magazine articles, comics and nonfiction.

• Try to find books that match your child’s interests. If you do not know what your child’s interests are, ask. Then, get book suggestions from the children’s librarian at your school or public library, or check with a bookseller at your favorite bookstore.

• If the book you have chosen does not interest your child, stop the reading with a simple statement such as, “It looks like this is not the right book for us today.” Move on to another book or activity.

• Some children love reading about the same characters over and over. If that is what your child likes, choose several short books in a series or a longer novel. For novels, reading aloud a chapter a night works well. Remember, always review what happened in the previous night’s chapter before starting a new one.

• Expect your children to have favorite books that they will want to hear again and again. Honor their requests to read them over and over. Reading the story over and over helps children become familiar with the story plot and the vocabulary in it. As they get to know the story really well, have them fill in words for you but do try to introduce new selections.

Enjoy your reading time

Choosing quality books to read to your child is an important part of the reading aloud experience. So take some time to look for books your child will be interested in hearing, and enjoy your daily ritual together.

Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed., MA, is a teacher with 28 years of professional experience. You can write to her at with your questions or comments.